I write to you today because I want I to know that we are both OK.
It was fourth grade when you told me to liked me. Ms. X's class, three stories up on the east facing side of our elementary school. I was so young - I hadn't even started puberty - and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do if a girl told me they liked me. But even though I was so young, I remember your smile was when you said it. Your cheeks lifted your eyes and there was a beauty shining from somewhere inside. I shied away… That was when something began to happen between us.
The sequence of events is fuzzy, but I remember you flashing me your breast in public, in the middle of a class. I remember you trying to kiss me, how intrusive your tongue felt; hard and forceful. I remember you pinning me against the wall in the coatroom, I remember your wet grasp on my genitals. And I remember your eyes, and how cold they were. Compared to the smile you had shared with me only a few months prior, they were icy, almost numb.
I wasn't ready, for any of it. Emotionally, mentally, physiologically... a piece of myself disassociated when you had me pinned against that wall. All that piece has ever wanted to do for the past 18 years was jump out of that window in the closet. But a part of me knew, and has always known, that you didn't mean to scare me, and that you were only trying to show me how you felt inside.
All this time I had the assumption that you had been through something - some kind of abuse in your past - that taught you that it was OK to do the things that you did to me, the way you did them to me. But I’ve never reached out to you. I‘ve never checked to see if you were actually trapped in a closet all your own. I’m sorry. Please forgive me, I wasn't ready.
When that piece of me disassociated so many years ago it created an imbalance within myself. It felt like the earth had broken under a river, only to create a massive waterfall like that of the great Niagara. I can feel the power of it’s imbalance, its potential, its force... With the structure provided to me by my friends and family I have come to dwell over it’s energy. I have come to appreciate and respect what you shared with me in fourth grade. Because of you I have the experience to help others who have been through similar things. There is still a whole lot of work to be done, but as I write this it feels like my life has a new beginning.
You are such a huge part of who I am today. We were so young at the time, I don't know if it would even be appropriate for me to forgive you two decades later, but I still do. Without our history I would not have within me the experience necessary to confront in myself and others a history of sexual violence. It has propelled me to grow, to learn, and ultimately to love. Today, I feel like I have so much to offer the world, and so much of it is because of you. Thank you for trying to show me you liked me.
We are in this struggle together - not just you and I but our communities, our city, our society, our species - at all levels we have been stalked by a spectre of violence which has existed since the human epoch began. It has been a violence which inspires fear; and it has been a fear which has separated an “us” and the “them” from the “we”. It is only by coming together in solidarity and reconciliation that we can see each other for what we really are: brothers and sisters in a struggle for liberation. My sister, I love you. My friend, I forgive you. My neighbor, I am here for you.
Here is to hoping that smile is still well,